Kids and iPads are like peas and carrots. It's Children's Week in Australia, and to celebrate, here are some of our favourite iPad apps for kids.
With the flurry of apps that are arriving after the launch of iOS 5, few caught our attention like Scribblenauts Remix. A new Scribblenauts game for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, featuring the creative word-based gameplay we love on an intuitive capacitive screen, it's as though this was the platform the game had been intended for all along. It's also a great way for kids to learn spelling, vocabulary and lateral thinking without it feeling like a chore.
Scribblenauts Remix is also one of the first apps we've seen to take advantage of the Apple cloud. If you have it installed on multiple devices, your game will automatically save in iCloud and transfer to all your iDevices, which means you can pick it up and play from where you left off on any of them.
New features also include social network sharing via Twitter and Facebook, and players can now share and view leaderboards and achievements. For the price, it's one of the coolest games we've seen come to iOS. Caveat: it's not very long, though.
Dinosaurs are cool. Every little kid has a favourite, and it's hard not to be fascinated by these almost mythic behemoths. March of the Dinosaurs tells the story of a dinosaur migration, with optional narration. At certain pages of the story, you can stop and take a closer look at the dinos, viewing moving models, CG videos, information about the dinosaur and the star of the book — Edmontosaurus — gets a full 3D model you can zoom and rotate for a closer look.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore tells the story of a man who discovers a deep and abiding love of books — but it's so much more than that, too. Each page features gorgeous animated illustrations from the award-winning short film, with interactive experiences to be discovered. You can play the piano, play with food, ruffle the pages of books — every time you read it, there is something new and wonderful for your child to discover.
Poor old Grover is terrified of monsters — but there's one at the end of this book! He will build walls and tie the pages together, but nothing can stop you from turning them over. This breaking-the-fourth-wall children's classic has been revamped for the iPad, with animations, actual narrations by Grover himself (saving a new generation of parents from trying to imitate his vocal gymnastics), interactive activities, highlighted words to help with literacy and tips for parents on dealing with inexplicable childhood fears.
One for slightly older kids, Lego Harry Potter is the adventures of everyone's favourite young wizard ... Lego-style. Play through the first four chapters as Harry, Ron, Hermione or a character of your own creation, with boss battles, building and quidditch matches, all using an intuitive touchscreen interface. If you love Harry Potter, this is the full game experience for a fraction of the console price.
Like Scribblenauts, Max and the Magic Marker needs you to solve the puzzles on the screen by thinking laterally ... but instead of using words, you have to draw in a creative solution to the problem. Watch as your drawings come to life, allowing you to climb, travel, collect and contain. You have to be careful, though: the magic marker isn't inexhaustible, and you'll need to collect orbs to replenish as you go.
Like a more complicated and in-depth game of Operation, Toca Doctor lets your child play at making people better, from viruses to broken bones. Beautifully illustrated, the app teaches basic anatomy and medical principles while being delightfully illustrated and fun all the way. Puzzles and mini games can be played in a relaxing, untimed, rule-free way so that kids can relax and just enjoy while they play and learn at their own pace.
This is one racing game that is great for kids — it has realistic graphics (so it feels "grown up"), but is super easy to play — all you have to do is drag a finger around the racetrack and the car will follow. It does get slightly trickier, but it's so easy to pick up and play that kids love it. There are over 180 challenges, and each car has its own "quirks", so the entertainment potential is enormous.
One for the smaller ones, perhaps, I Love Fireworks is a simple app that allows you to explode various fireworks by touching the screen in different ways — whether it be a series of quick, light taps, long press or drags across the screen. You can also add music and create your own fireworks music videos. It's visually exciting and a great way to get five minutes' quiet.
Want to teach your child to play chess? What you need is dinosaurs. No, really. When you start the app, you set up your dinosaur, a titchy little thing that grows as you progress. Over 11 interactive lessons, you learn the game; when you have the basics down pat, you can play through mini games and challenges to hone your skills. All the while, your titchy little dinosaur gets bigger and bigger, until he or she is as big as a house. Plus, look at that opponent dinosaur, with his crossed arms and his backwards hat. Don't you just want to humiliate him via the medium of a chess victory?
The poor little green piggie is left all alone when monsters invade his village, so he sets off to rescue his friends. But the monsters are big and scary, and the piggie only has one weapon at his disposal — SNOT! Gesundheit has it all — amazing visuals, simple and addictive gameplay and a sense of grotty humour kids will love.
TeachMe Kindergarten is one way to give your kids a head start when it comes to school times. Treating basic problems of maths, spelling and sight words as a game, it makes learning fun, especially since it also uses a reward system. Correct answers will earn your child virtual coins, which they can use to buy virtual stickers for their sticker-book, or trick out an aquarium with fish and plants.
The app can have up to four profiles on it, and there are also apps available for toddler and first grade for slightly older or younger age groups.
Do you have a miniature Monet on your hands? ArtRage is an art app that allows you to paint on a blank canvas. There are a number of media available, from pencils to chalk to markers to oil paints, so your child can get their art groove on without getting paint all over the place. If you want to save these masterpieces, you can export them as high-resolution PNG files to print out and stick on the fridge.
If it seems a little too advanced, Drawing Kit is a simpler alternative.
Getting serious for a moment, this app isn't just for kids. If you're the parent of a child with autism, Down Syndrome or other special needs, it can be really hard to get help and resources. Autism Apps collates apps that will help you and child interact and learn. It collates them by topic for easy searching, and includes reviews by other parents so you can find out if this app is one that will be useful in your particular situation — and it allows you to recommend apps you have found to other parents in turn.